By Dick Trone
One of the many things that keep reminding me of how special Del Norte High athletics is, is the number of young men and women that have played here then gone on to college careers and then into coaching careers. Many of them returned here.
When you look at this year's varsity football staff, Louie Nova, Blaine Lopez, Mike Zeck and Fritz Baldwin are all ex-Warriors that went on to college careers then returned here. There are many others that graduated from college and went into coaching in other areas. Many I want to write about in the future. There was one former Del Norter that was very special to me.
Matt Kelley grew up in Crescent City in a rather dysfunctional situation. He was well on his way down the wrong road when he was taken in by Tex Gatlin, long time Warrior coach and his wife Eris. They turned him in the right direction. He graduated from high school and went on to Humboldt State, where he became a standout defensive end.
Matt was several years younger than me but I knew him as a kid for many years. While in college, Matt majored in industrial arts. I was the head football coach at Yucca Valley High School in southern California at the time Matt graduated from college. It so happened that I was looking for two assistant coaches at the time. One of the teaching positions that we had open was for a wood shop teacher. I called Art Stegman who was head of the industrial arts department at Humboldt and told him what I was looking for.
Without any hesitation he said "you have to hire Matt Kelley." He didn't even know that I had known Matt for years. He said "Matt is going to be a great coach and an excellent teacher." I told our principal that I had a candidate I would like him to interview for the wood shop and coaching position. his reply was "I don't have to interview him if he is the one you want. What's his address. We will send him a contract." With that Matt became a part of the Yucca Valley staff.
He was an outstanding addition and helped us to an 11-1 season. We didn't lose a game until we lost the section championship game. Matt was engaged at the time to a lady on the HSU administrative staff. The day before our semifinal playoff game they ran off to Las Vegas and got married. He made it back just in time for the game. At the end of the year Matt took an industrial arts and coaching position at Fortuna. He coached the Husky JV team until his retirement and during one stretch won 50 straight games.
Upon his retirement he was elected to the Fortuna High School Board of Education. Matt and I maintained a close relationship through all those years. I still remember the phone call I got from Dick Cahill, the long time Fortuna coach. He said Matt had just come in from salmon fishing and complained about not feeling good and died of a heart attack. He is a real tribute to Warrior history. Matt had a son named Matt who is carrying on the Kelley tradition at Fortuna High School.
Dick Trone writes on his reflections and the history of Del Norte High Warrior sports. Trone, who played football for the Warriors, had an illustrious career on the gridiron at Humboldt State University. Trone was head football coach at Del Norte High for a number of years before retiring. Currently, he is head coach of the Wild Rivers Storm semi-pro football team.
formerly called the Siskiyou Savages.